Hope is running high that the future of the ‘Small Blue’ butterfly is secure in the West Midlands following the start of restoration on fifteen new wild flower rich grasslands.
Mike Slater, Project Officer of the Small Blue Project for Butterfly Conservation, (who is carrying out the scheme) says that this smallest native butterfly can only currently be found in three sites in the whole of Warwickshire, and has suffered an 87% decline in the county due to a lack of habitat. (It’s extinct in the other five West Midland counties). “All three current sites are in working or inactive quarries around Southam, and what we’re doing is creating new sites within flying distance to encourage new colonies,” he explains. “The Small blue feeds on Kidney Vetch, which needs poor nutrient, alkaline soil.”
Linda Laxton, MD of British Wild Flower Plants, who has been working with Butterfly Conservation for the last two years says that the nursery has already dispatched around 1,500 Kidney Vetch plants grown from seed, and will be sending another 6,000 in batches at intervals of approx six to eight weeks. “It’s a long project that is ongoing,” she reveals. “We collect the seed from existing plants at the Southam quarries and grow the plants until they are large enough for ½ litre pots. The whole process takes about 11 months. The seed, like that of a lot of our native plants, needs to go through the winter and won’t germinate until around the second week in February when it senses that the days are getting longer, and we’re heading towards spring.”
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